Hate incidents reach record level on eve of antisemitism conference

The annual Community Security Trust report reveals that January was the worst month ever for antisemitic incidents in Britain. The upsurge — linked to Israel’s Gaza incursion — followed falls in 2007 and 2008.

The total for 2008 was 541 incidents. The highest annual figure was 598 in 2006, the year of the Lebanon war.

Eighty-eight violent assaults were recorded, and 74 cases of damage to Jewish property.

There were 28 direct antisemitic threats and 314 incidents of abusive behaviour, which included hate mail, verbal abuse and antisemitic graffiti on non-Jewish property. There were also 37 instances of the mass mailing of antisemitic literature, in paper form or by email.

The CST’s annual report has been published on the eve of the first UK inter-parliamentary summit on antisemitism, which opens on Sunday. International figures including Natan Sharansky from Israel, former Canadian Justice Minister Prof Irwin Cotler and Lord Malloch-Brown, the minister for Africa, Asia and the UN, will spend two days discussing internet hate, policing and prosecution. The summit is being co-hosted by Britain’s Foreign Office and the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism.

It also coincides with a survey conducted by New York’s Anti-Defamation League of 500 people in seven European countries — Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Spain and Britain.

The survey found that nearly half of those surveyed in each country believed Jews were more loyal to Israel than to their own country. Nearly 40 per cent still believed the traditional slur that “Jews have too much power in the business world”. Similarly, 41 per cent still thought that “Jews have too much power in international financial markets”.

Thirty-eight per cent of those surveyed believe that violence directed against Jews was a result of anti-Jewish feelings, while 24 per cent believed it was because of anti-Israel sentiment.

Asked about the global financial situation, the survey showed that Jews received a disturbing amount of blame for the crisis, with 31 per cent responding in this fashion.

CST spokesman Mark Gardner noted of the figures for antisemitic incidents that “the Jewish community would have welcomed this decline in incident figures for a second year running. Sadly, the subsequent outburst of antisemitic rage during the Gaza conflict shows the shocking impact upon British Jews of widespread anti-Israel hysteria.”

John Mann MP, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group against Antisemitism said: “Antisemitism continues to persist at stubbornly high levels. The small decline in incidents is welcomed but 2008 is still the third highest year on record. As the year came to an end we saw attacks on Jews in the UK reach their greatest level since reporting started in 1984.

A seminar on internet hate crime — and antisemitism in particular — was held in London on Wednesday by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

It was part of the government’s response to the all-party antisemitism report. Delegates from several ministries, including the Community Cohesion Minister, Sadiq Khan, MPs and communal leaders from the Jewish Leadership Council, the Board of Deputies and the CST took part.

In a message of support Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: “The urgency of the task is clear when we consider the disturbing recent surge in antisemitic attacks.

“The internet is a new frontier, giving us an unparalleled opportunity to organise against antisemitism, but also providing new platforms for the agents of intolerance and division.”

By numbers

541 antisemitic incidents in 2008

250+ antisemitic incidents, including assaults, hate mail and verbal abuse in January 2009

598 incidents in 2006, the worst year for antisemitic incidents to date

1 Jewish man was stabbed to death in Manchester in an antisemitic attack

Last updated: 1:26pm, March 10 2009